On April 22, 2010, I published an article in which I provided several ideas for raising the profile of The Episcopal Church. I was thinking that it's not only about raising the profile, it's also about how the profile impacts people. Is it positive or negative? For what will The Episcopal Church be known on the community grapevine?
Then, on Saturday night, May 1, I decided to practice what I was preaching and launched a facebook fan page called "Unapologetically Episcopalian." It is a gathering place to celebrate the many positive ways Episcopalians in 16 nations are spreading the Gospel of Christ.
In four and one-half days, over three thousand people subscribed. One year later, we have 16,000 friends. I am amazed but, to be honest, not entirely surprised by the response. During the last three years, I've had opportunities to communicate with Episcopalians of all walks of life and all kinds of places. The one theme I have heard more than any other is that people on the extreme ends of the spectrum seem to have control of the public image of The Episcopal Church and the vast, vital, moderate center has experienced difficulty in finding its "voice." Like many of them, I have dear friends and colleagues on both ends of the spectrum. Whether I agree completely with their views or not, I respect them and desire to walk with them "in love as Christ loved us."
It is not that The Episcopal Church doesn't have a public profile. We do. However, for a number of years it has been out of balance. Many Episcopalians have felt they needed to apologize for their Church because our internal conflicts and many angry voices have been the topic of the community grapevine. It seems to me that it's time for the public profile to change. It needs to change at every level, but especially at the local level where most of the day-to-day mission is being carried out.
- When people in Lawrence, Kansas think of The Episcopal Church, we'd like them to think of the Trinity Interfaith Food Pantry, the BackSnack program, and the outstanding music ministry, all of which we share generously with our neighbors.
- When people in City Island, Bronx, NY think of The Episcopal Church, will they think of the Healthy Aging Program at Grace Church?
- When people in Raliegh, NC think of the Episcopal Church, we want them to remember that St. Mark's Church there has an AIDS Care Team.
- When people in Tuscaloosa, AL think of The Episcopal Church, maybe they'll be aware of the Arts and Autism after school program they sponsor.
- When people in Kansas City, MO think of the Episcopal Church, they'll think of the St. Luke's Hospital system with 11 hospitals and a hospice program, or, maybe they'll remember that St. Paul's Church just across the state line in the Diocese of Kansas, has a remarkable ministry of feeding the hungry.
- Maybe all of those Episcopalians who have found their spiritual home in this Church will be salt, light, and leaven in their communities in ways that make a difference.
While we are attempting to work through our differences in this Church, God's mission and our ministries continue on a daily basis. The stories and experiences of ALL sorts and conditions of Episcopalians who are rolling up their sleeves and transforming lives need to find greater expression and form more of the public profile of our Church. Episcopalians who are trying to find ways to accomplish Christ's work need to hear from other Episcopalians who've discovered solutions. We need to "rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep" without the angst that comes from protracted, polarizing conflict. Unapologetically Episcopalian provides a place for that to happen.
I am not suggesting that our issues and the convictions of our members are not important. They are important. What I am suggesting is that the rest of the world is watching closely to see how we treat one another as we work through those differences. Jesus told his disciples that our love for one another, not our differences, is what will let everyone know that we are his disciples.
So, I thought it would be a helpful thing to let the spotlight be on the love of Christ at work among us. Please join us. Check in often, post comments and stories about your journey of faith in The Episcopal Church. Let us know what is happening in your congregation and spread the word.
The Rev'd Ronald D. Pogue